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Half of the 16 school districts in York County receive $74 million less in annual education funding than they should from the state, according to a group that's advocating for a change in how state education dollars are handed out.

"York County is one of the top counties in the state in the underfunded category," said Kelly Lewis, chairman of the group Equity First, noting York County holds the dubious honor of ranking third in the state.

York City schools is atop the list of underfunded districts in the county, receiving $46.5 million less than it should, while Northeastern is at the bottom with $460,460. In between are six districts that are underfunded by between $2 million and $7.2 million, according to the group.

Equity First is in the midst of a statewide tour to raise awareness about 180 districts that are underfunded and efforts in the Legislature to institute a fair funding formula that's applied to all state education dollars.

The group held a meeting in York City on Tuesday. No York County lawmakers attended.

Statewide: The funding disparity accounts for $937 million the 180 school districts statewide are underfunded by annually while 320 school districts are overfunded by that amount, according to the group.

"It destroyed real estate because taxes are higher than they should be," Lewis said of impacts in underfunded districts.

The state uses 25-year-old student population figures to distribute education funding. The "hold harmless" provision prevents districts from receiving less funding than they did the previous year. Both factors have led to districts receiving less funding than they should have over the years, proponents of a fair funding formula said.

Fair funding: Pennsylvania Republicans scored a major victory last month when they forced the state to distribute $150 million in additional basic education dollars using a fair funding formula.

In passing the veto-proof fiscal code, part of the state budget, the state Department of Education had to ditch the restoration funding formula championed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. The switch led to millions of dollars in added funding for York County schools.

But if the state uses the formula to distribute just the additional dollars, it would take 25 years for the underfunded districts to reach where they should be, Equity First said.

State Rep. David Parker, R-Monroe County, said the General Assembly as a whole needs to take up fair funding for the full amount of yearly education funding, and he plans to introduce a measure in the House to do that.

The school districts Parker represents in Monroe County are underfunded annually by $52.1 million.

But getting the 102 representatives needed to pass a bill on board may be no easy task since some school districts the lawmakers represent would end up losing money.

"Going forward, I've got to look out for what's best for every school district I represent," said Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.

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